Recently I told an audience of prospective students and parents that even though we are one of the oldest honors colleges in the country, beginning in the 1960s and becoming a college in 1978, I am only the fourth dean. Obviously, I say, it’s a terrible job, almost impossible to find anyone to take it—which reliably produces smiles and laughs. As I look back over my time as dean, I understand very well why we’ve had such continuity. It’s a wonderful job, and the time really passes quickly (which may be another way of saying it’s a wonderful job).
As I’m writing, we’re in an especially interesting season. Students are finishing their senior theses and just participated in Revocation, where they received the Honors College medallion. I was the second reader for a beautifully written, full-length, science fiction/fantasy novel. The director and I are confident it will be published, and if it achieves J.K. Rowling status, I’m hoping the author has agreed to name the college (if it’s not already named). At the most recent meeting of the Pearce Faculty Fellows, our biology professor noted that a senior thesis by one of her students had evolved into a grant for her research team. There are well over 500 other senior theses that also represent remarkable work and collaboration.
We are also in the season when our students are mapping out what comes next. Once again, our students have done extremely well competing for the most prestigious awards and fellowships. Yesterday I learned we can add a Udall Scholar to the long list of winners this year: it takes some energy and courage to try for these awards, and it also takes guidance and support from faculty and National Fellowships staff. I also take particular pleasure hearing from students who say they gained so much from the process of applying, even though they didn’t win. We are also finding out where our students are going to graduate school, to medical and law schools, where they are taking jobs. One student is deferring her acceptance to Yale to do research for a year at the NIH. Another student is turning down Harvard Law because Virginia is offering a full scholarship plus living expenses.
We are all basking in the reflected glory of our students. They were extraordinary when we recruited them, and they have taken advantage of the enormous resources here. This is also the season when next fall’s incoming class is taking shape, and it promises to be another excellent group. What our students accomplish is enabled, empowered, supported by the generosity of alumni and friends. We are so fortunate to have robust funding for students’ research. We are focusing on supporting study abroad, and we’ve made good progress.
I hope you enjoy our newest AHA! alumni magazine. Thanks for your interest and support.